Femme Forte -a shero story

As I anxiously wait for my sister to compete in New Delhi in Olympic weightlifting during the Commonwealth Games, I am wondering how she is feeling, what her surroundings are like, what is she thinking about, is there someone to support her with a kind smile in this foreign part of the world where competition is fierce and furious? Maybe a cute and kind boy?

Is her body compromised in any way? I couldn’t imagine this being one of the biggest days of my life only to wake up with a period. Who thinks of these things? Apparently I do. As much as I respect a period’s power, you best be very far from India, period.

So who is this Femme Forte? MJ is a very private individual which makes it challenging to write openly about her in a way where I can hopefully achieve giving her justice the way she gives justice to life. I shall try tres fort to share this story honouring her without dishonouring her privacy.

She, like many athletes have dedicated a life time to the world of sports.  She started with figure skating where her strength beat her grace as she fell out of a jump and landed chin first on hard ice. She received many stitches and was extremely lucky not to break her neck. Her next sport career: Speedskating, where power meets the need for speed.

She trained at the Oval arena in Calgary for many years where she met a dear-dear friend named Politics. I call “it” a dear-dear friend because “it” has since never left her side. “It” has been with her every step of the way, even when she is to pee on demand for drug testing no matter what she was in the middle of doing in her daily life. I can’t imagine peeing on demand in the middle of a midterm only to have someone stare at my pee hole. Geesh really! Really.

I could go on about “it”, “it” could actually take up pages of writing, however “it” gets easily offended and upset potentially making it worse for her so I shall leave “it” out, out of consideration for my sister.  She just may decide to introduce “it” to others one day, I look forward to this day.

When “it” and her became too close she decided to move into weightlifting. The fact that you could train for this sport out of your basement really appealed to her. She literally trained this way on more than a few occasions, in basements, garages and outdoors, mostly on her own.

One of her biggest challenges was finding a good coach. You would think there are plenty out there but really there aren’t. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard trying to find one on the National and International scene. She researched them from sport books to phone books. And forget about finding a womyn weightlifting coach …. not an option. Perhaps she will fill that gap one day. Something that would indeed have a great influence on minimizing sexism in this sport. A whole other story in itself.

MJ has pretty much been her own coach for about half the time she has been training in Olympic Weightlifting. I can’t imagine training at this level with such big weights and coaching myself, being my own manager and pretty much my own agent too. Meanwhile also keeping up with studies and working on the side bringing me to the topic of her next challenge: funding.

This country is really weak when it comes to knowing how to invest in their athletes. Our government cares so much about receiving shiny medals in the ‘big’ Olympics and other International Games however when it comes down to it those who usually get funded seem to be those who get along with “it” the best and even then you may be a starving athlete who relies heavily on a nourished body to support its performance growth.

Throughout all these challenges MJ has persevered and accomplished one of the greatest things in my eyes: staying true to who she is. Even if these challenges and many others sucked all the energy she had within her, she never gave up being authentic, never adapted her personality for the sole purpose of fitting a certain stereotype, never pretended to be someone she wasn’t even if it meant making her life easier. Sometimes I have to admit I wish she did change some of her ways because I saw the stress this created for her but in the end there is such great value in her ethics. It is these ethics and values that have got her to where she is without using anything or anyone against her will to get there. It is this that has inspired so many around her to believe you can accomplish great things being yourself. An inspiration we do not see often, a unique and authentic one that reminds us about the true meaning of being true to yourself and others.

It really sadden me not to be there with her tonight cheering her on in person. I know she can do it on her own because she has done it mostly on her own all this way. I wish kind eyes and warm smiles find her and surround her on this great day in her life.


She is competing second in her group at 2:30 am Eastern canadian time on October 8th

Yin Yoga Teacher Training Vancouver Day 8

I’m  e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d, joyfully so! A most excellent 8 days not only of intensive teacher training but also of visiting beauty-filled souls. Many of whom I had not seem in more years than I can count on one hand. Too much time has elapse but gratefulness that we have remained connected despite time and space.

We practiced teaching again on this last day of teacher training. It went well. I had the opportunity to teach one on one with Donna -my very first Moksha teacher. It felt like such an honour to have her as a student and hear her feedback. The words rolled better off my tongue it seemed and I felt more connected with my intuition. It was challenging to say the least as there were 20 of us teaching at the same time in an area as big as an average yoga class. This highly challenged our concentration as well as trying to remain in the present ON our mats.

So as promised here are extract of my notes for the week. This is a great way for me not to type what I think anymore. I shall end with this as my body is aching for sleep. It is marvellous being in a province where insomnia does not exist for me and I get to wake up early by choice rather than by an annoying machine but at the same time my body feels 2 – 3 times as tired at this time and staying awake becomes tres difficile.

Random Notes:

– there’s no absolute. Even with Yin you’ll find Yang and vice versa. Cold water can be Yin but in comparison to ice it is Yang.

– the 3 principles of Yin are: 1) come into an appropriate depth in a pose. 2) Become still 3) Hold for time.

– When we stress our tissues we are stressing the cell membranes and are getting them active.

– Stress is as important as rest, we have just lost the ability to find enough rest to balance the stress in our day to day live.

– Rule number one: There are no rules! Never is Never right. Always is always wrong.

– The heat works more on muscles, the cold works more on ligaments.

– Having a cold (the one with sniffles) every now is good for our body to help build our immune system. It’s best not to fight it but rather stay at home and rest it out.

– The fascia and our bones are not separate. You can’t really see where a tendon or muscle begins or ends. It is not as separate as we might think. 30% of a muscle is fascia.

– your range of motion is very much determined by your bones not just your dedication to stretching. Don’t assume tension is the only thing stopping them. Don’t assume you know what  student os feeling, ask them.

– don’t put someone else’s head above you own.

– many injuries in yoga tend to happen in and out of postures, another reason to transition mindfully.

– water retention can affect our flexibility especially for womyn.

– building and cars block the earth magnetic field which can be healing for us. The heart has the largest magnetic field in the body.

– Vitamin D is actually a hormone.

Thanks again for reading and following my yin teacher training journey! I head back home tomorrow.

Yin Yoga Teacher Training Vancouver Day 7

In case you haven’t heard it is I’m Exhausted and Need Much Rest International Yin Teacher Training Blogging Day. I will be back tomorrow night with my course binder in hand sharing some of the notes I took in class.  Happy sleeps or waking moments.

Yin Teacher Training Vancouver 2010 -Day 5

Eureka! I think I’ve re-discovered my knees! Literally. As I was exploring their soreness this morning I realized they aren’t actually pointing forward when I’m standing with my feet parallel to one another. They slightly point inwards. I wish I had my camera to take pictures to show you. And since Moksha usually guides a class asking us to bring our toes together and heels about an inch apart this further brings my knee caps in making them ‘pigeon knees’. I can see how this could cause continuous stress on them.

As I went to Moksha class tonight I tried the reverse. Bringing my heels together and big toes about an inch apart bringing my knees to point straight. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed this before. In defense it is a subtle rotation but still another example of why tuning into your own body is extremely important in yoga. And in some postures I am realizing it can be extremely important for teachers to ask students what they are feeling before adjusting them and not just assume we know what is best. This is a huge part of what I’ve been learning with Yin Yoga.

Everyday Bernie, our teacher, encourages us to ask a student first what they are feeling, to check in with them, that since every body is different we can feel different stretches for the same posture. That getting everyone to adjust the same way is like treating everyone with the same pill. And generally there are certain pills given for certain conditions but people are examined before being prescribed pills. We make sure we are being prescribed the right pill for our ailment and body type (age, weight, allergies) and usually the first question we are ask is what are we feeling.

As I was exploring this new theory, in downward dog, of subtly bringing my heels closer together rather than my toes in Moksha class the teacher noticed and she adjusted them by turning them the other way. Knowing I was going to try something different I should have talked to her about this before class but it also did show me that as teachers we can tend to assume we know someone’s body and what is right for them and it is an area to be very mindful about. It’s so tricky though. In class the other day a Moksha teacher made an adjustment in a pose by bringing my shoulders down and it was a great adjustment to make and made me feel better!

I’m thinking experience will give me greater insight into this and I can now better see the value of having smaller classes and doing one on one yoga classes with students.

Bonne nuit! I get to sleep in an extra hour and a half tomorrow morning. My body has reached its exhaustion point today so it is extra rest I am greatly looking forward to.

Yin Yoga Teacher Training Vancouver 2010 -Day 4

Super day. It rained tonight as I discovered loving the smell of the following combo: rain + ocean + wind.

Something I’ve discovered with Yin yoga is that practicing first thing in the morning when you are feeling tired can quickly become a beneficial blur. I usually end up closing my eyes for most of the practice, feeling deep sensations in my body and in some ways this invites meditation much easier than asana’s (yoga poses) that require a lot of energy.  It almost feels like being in alpha state (the state of relaxation and peaceful awakefulness, associated with prominent alpha brain wave activity) for ours. This is a great place to be, it really does feel peaceful and a very relaxed present state. So perhaps doing yin yoga when feeling tired can actually increase the benefits of this type of yoga.

My revelation today is that I think I’m rediscovering porridge. It’s so pleasing to the taste buds and warms and soothes the stomach. I walked into Capers yesterday and instantly smelt it and wanted it. So I listened to this desire and replaced my orignal plan of going for the yogurt parfait. I savoured every bite. This morning it was the 1st thing on my brain after the morning yin class. And so I went for more. And now I can’t wait to savour it’s all around good feeling tomorrow morning.

An odd observation is that my knees have chronically a little sore recently and I’m not sure why. They are also starting to bother me just sitting here, but very lightly. They first started acting up in T.O. during the Moksha Teacher Training and they don’t seem to be getting better. Even pigeon is hurting my left knee now. Something it hasn’t done in the past. I’ve been backing off from the knee poses however perhaps I need to completely eliminate them for a while. They say people who do yoga usually get injured in their 3 – 4 -5 th year because your body gets overly confident. I’ve been trying to be mindful of this but perhaps I need to completely back off of certain poses.

In class today we covered more on the effects of energy including bioelectrical energy. Did you know that when we take antioxidants such as blueberries to fight off free radicals there is something else we could be doing that is as effective. Something you don’t actually end up ingesting but rather steeping on: the earth. So get your feet dirty! This is really quite fascinating. Here’s an article on it. Here’s another interesting piece of information, when you use a blow dryer close to your head you are exposing it to harmful electro magnetic field. To help protect yourself you can arrange to hang the dryer on a wall hook, get a flexible plastic hose for the nozzle, and direct the hot air to your head with the hose.

We also learnt more about Yin postures, what they are good for including what meridians they affect, what conditions shouldn’t be doing certain poses, how to work with props etc… Overall VERY informative! Still vey pleased wiht this teacher training.

Txs for reading! Bonne nuit or bonne journée!

Yin Yoga Teacher Training Vancouver 2010 Day 3

Here it goes, you’ll have to excuse my tiredness which may reveal itself by an unusual writing style pour moi. I may also be PMSing which may explain the anger I was feeling tonight for no real reason. So fun being hormonal. So fun.

Another great day in the city of Vancouver! The course rocked. We learnt a lot about our energy bodies and about different types of medicine other than Western Medicine. Many of which acknowledges our energetic being. It’s not like our planet (or us) depend on energy to survive. Or that it is remotely important when it comes to our ‘covered up’ reasons for why we go to war and kill and destroy people’s families. Or that we jeopardize our health over by exploiting unhealthy energy sources so we can keep our civilization going (or silently kill them off in some cases though disease caused by toxins). Nope, energy really ain’t that big of a deal for this planet so why would we ever think to look at it when it comes to our bodies. Yes, tres cheeky.

The energy thing really resonates with me because of the stickyness I feel and shared about during my Moksha Teacher Training (TT). An analogy we learnt today is that it’s like a garden hose. If you leave your hose outside for a summer while you’re gone on vacation, it can get clogged up with dirt, twigs, dead insects, etc. You turn the tap on when you get back and the water can’t get through. You play around with the hose, bend it where the build up is and loosen it up. You turn the hose back on and voila now the water pushes all of this out and can get through. Our energy lines in our bodies can work in a very similar way. This is probably why on an emotional and energetic level I usually feel better after yoga. Not just on a physical level.

I went for a yummy breakfast on the beach this morning with Donna from Edmonton (a moksha teacher who’s also taking the training). We ate porish and shared stories while feeling the sun mixed with the salty breeze on our skin. I know such a tough morning. I also walked along this same beach on the way back from TT heading to Moksha class. So many people were enjoying the beach playing volleyball, freesbee, lying soaking up the sun, swimming, picnicking, wow. Such a fun activity to be able to chose from when living in a city.

I have found a downside to this city though that I wasn’t expecting. The city is not recycling friendly. I find this pretty lame and unbelievable as it is recognized as such a green city and province. Perhaps they recycle at home but in the streets there are no recycling bin. They have a few garbage bins with about 4 -5 spaces around it to put round bottles but that’s about it and it’s not everywhere because Granville Island has none of these types of garbage bins. So people are not only throwing out paper and plastic but also bottles. In Toronto they have 2 recycling bins for every one bin of garbage, very recycling friendly! I may write a letter to the mayor and council about this because it’s such a waste for a city enriched by such natural beauty.

Dodo time! Txs for reading!

Yin Yoga Teacher Training 2010 day 2

Ok so it’s 11 pm and as usual I should be in bed. Instead I will try and type super fast but really lighty as my roomate has just went to dodo. She is very accommodating, both of the people I’m staying with are but I still feel bad. Plus I still have homework to read …

Another awesome day!

You know when people fall in love when they least expect it? Well this is totally what I think is hapening. I have regarded the sun as a goddess so much so I couldn’t image living in Vancouver no matter how absolutely amazing the culture and life style was here. So I never did imagine. Now I think I’m falling in love with this city, with its people, its shops, its outdoor activities, its biodiversity, its smell, its humidity, its ocean. I just realized today that the beach is literally 5 blocks away from where I’m staying, how cool! I smeel it everytime I go outside. It is such an amazing smell.

I went back to my new favorite grocery store this morning for breakfast, it’s called Capers. I could hang out literally all day there. Apparently there’s another chain called wholefoods that is equally filled with delicious yummy nutritious goodness. This evening I found another store I could spend all day in. It was filled with health, meditation, yoga and reading products. It also smelt so good.

So class yes … well lot’s more interesting knowledged gained today. The biggest had to be “every ‘body’ is different”. What a revelation, I know. Seriously it was. Down to the bone level. Never a good idea to push/force someone in a pose or single them out for doing a pose differently because our bones are made so differently and someitmes no matter how much we practice this will not change the fact that bone stopping bone exists. I have now gained skills helping to recognize these signs with students and with my own practice.

Ok sorry so short, but I feel too bad about this typing noise. I will try and write more tomorrow night.

Yin Yoga Teacher Training August 2010 -Journaling

I blogged about my experience with Moksha TT (teacher training) I might as well blog about this experience too. I arrived in vancouver last night by plane. I took the sky train to a station close to where I’m staying and decided to walk for an hour to get to my destination. My luggage was on rollers so no biggie … until 45 mins later when my forearms were quite tired, but worth it. I feel as though living rurally the chances are few to walk from point A to point B so who cares that I’m dragging luggage on rollers for an hour.

Upon my arrival to this stranger’s apartment she and her roommate greeted me with smiles and hospitality. It was quite hard trying to find a reasonably priced place to stay. I couldn’t find anything under $720 for 8 days so I put an add on kijiji and a womyn replied and offered a comfy bed, use of her washroom and fridge for $200. Great deal although there’s always the risk about what person you will meet on the other side of the door. So far, so good.

So Yin teacher training went well over all. It’s taught by Bernie Clark. He seems quite knowledgeable. We had a Yin class this morning (after intros), then a 2 hour breakfast break, which is kind of odd because we don’t get a lunch break until the class ends at 3:45 pm. For breakfast I headed to the market on Granville Island with a lady from Edmonton who teaches Moksha yoga, I’m quite enjoying getting to know her, she’s very sweet. We ate and then sat in the sun by the sea and smelt the salt water and watched birds watch us. Wow… how lucky am I!

Upon our return to class we learnt about the anatomy behind the yin practice. Something I learnt that stands out the most is that our bodies need stress. It was interesting to hear that because we are so used to hearing how much stress is bad.  It is not that stress is bad it is the fact that we don’t give our bodies the right amount of rest in between stress. Nasa apparently did this experiment with a Biodome in the desert.  8 people were to live in it for 2 years. Turns out the trees could not hold up their branches because they did not have wind to help create stress on them. I didn’t think wind was necessary for tree branches growing healthy, and apparently neither did Nasa.

A Yin yoga practice ends up putting stress on the joints and our connective tissue but in a very gentle way and this in turn makes us stronger.

After class I went back to the Granville market to scope out some prepared food for the next few days and realized it was really expensive and not even that healthy, weird for a market, although the fruits and vegetables looked very tasty. I then headed to Moksha yoga, of course I have to take a class every day while I’m here, I don’t have this luxury back home. I walked an hour and came across more organic markets than in all of edmotnon. The choices were plenty. This is definitely my kind of street.

Lilies on my parents acreage. August 2010.

Vancouver, I’m discovering, is really pretty when it’s sunny. There are so many lushes trees and plants. People bike a lot and the culture overall is tres focused on health. If only it wasn’t so expensive, had more sun and wasn’t on an earthquake line cause this city so far is really stunning!

I decided not to bring my camera. Time for a ‘taking pic. break’ and I’m just more conscious of lugging stuff around. However Melodie took quite a few pictures at my very fun burday party last weekend so I’ll post some of those along with a few I also took.

Tour of my mom's garden with a few of the lovely people who celebrated my b-day with me.

Thanks for reading! A demain.

Day 29 and 30 -Moksha Yoga Teacher Training

I’m officially a Yoga Teacher! Yeeeeeeaaaaah! Wow, sometimes there are only words to say: there are no words and I kind of feel this way right now. Adding to this is total exhaustion but not an angry resentful exhaustion or even a “I’ve been bad to my body” exhaustion but more of a I’ve disciplined myself to the core and made it through an intensive 30 day course exhaustion.

We stayed at the “moksha farm” last night. The one I previously showed pictures from, the farm that belongs to Jessica’s (co-founder of Moksha yoga) wonderful parents and where the 1st studio resides. We had a talented talent show. No exageration, I was blown away by all the talent that expressed itself. It was incredible. I would have paid premium money to see these acts. I participated in a Bollywood performance and previewed the trailer to the slide show/vid. montage I’ve been working on.

We ate delicious food, had a camp fire and received our certificates. Along with these certificates we were all given a notable mention award. I was awarded the “sparkly eyes, smiling heart” award which really touched me profoundly. What an amazing award to be recognized for. Being surrounded by such captivating learning opportunities mixed with kind hearted people ignited in me such smiles and sparkles. The sparkles found in these people made me smile. Their courage to open up and share their delicate self was a profound experience and privilege for me. I got to know people deeply, people who were but strangers 30 days ago. What an honour. An honour that has made my heart grow.

So it is with this enriched heart that I return to the west with. A beauty-full heart because if there was one word to sum up this experience it would be beauty-full!

This is sweet Shawna in Savasana at the beach. Love this picture and how the sun is shining on her.

THANK YOU EVERYONE for following this journey and for being incredibly supportive in making such an experience true for me. Merci. BEAUCOUP.

Transitioning from this journey to the next with my favourite pose, dancers pose.

Day 28 -Moksha Yoga Teacher Training

So this video montage is almost done! I feel a little bad that it has cut into my blogging time these days but hopefully you’ll be able to soon see the final product giving you a glimpse of what this intense and passionate experience has felt like. It’s about 20 mins., which feels long but it’s hard trying to capture 60 students in 30 days. And when you have such great pics., such great video to pick from, where does one cut?

Today I felt great gratitude. I felt grateful for being here, grateful for everyone else being here, grateful for our teachers, the organizers, grateful for everyone who has made this possible for me. From my parents support to all my friends who have been patient with my absence and all the people at work who have worked a little harder while I was gone, THANK YOU!

I dedicated this grounding and relaxing posture (savasana) today to all those who made this moment beautiful and possible.

You all rock, I love you tones and feel utmost grateful for everyone who have aligned the stars for me. I have come here to nurture my soul and grow and … mission accomplished to the fullest of full. I also came here to become a yoga teacher and as of today I receive this accomplishment with an open heart.

Yoga Bliss on the beach

I taught my first full class today to one of the other teachers. We headed for the beach and wow oh wow I couldn’t ask for a better teaching feeling to be left with. It was our cherry on the Sundae, our shining moment as we both grounded our feet into the sand, felt the sun on our skin, heard the birds fly around us and watched the wind create water ripples in the great lake! It was bliss I cherish.

Mindful moments to remember for ever!

This piece is from the mat we all wrote on for one of the teacher's art project/presentation I mentioned a few blogs ago.